The  Theology of Calvinism.

Calvinists emit strong confidence, but of what they believe, their statements often reflect both Moderate Calvinism and Hyper Calvinism, simultaneously, but then ultimately confess ignorance.

First, consider what Calvinists teach, and then consider the resulting self-admitted perplexity

John Calvin: “We also note that we should consider the creation of the world so that we may realize that everything is subject to God and ruled by his will and that when the world has done what it may, nothing happens other than what God decrees.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.66, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “Does God work in the hearts of men, directing their plans and moving their wills this way and that, so that they do nothing but what He has ordained?” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.174, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “For the man who honestly and soberly reflects on these things, there can be no doubt that the will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.177, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “For myself, I take another principle: Whatever things are done wrongly and unjustly by man, these very things are the right and just works of God. This may seem paradoxical at first sight to some....” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.169, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “First, it must be observed that the will of God is the cause of all things that happen in the world; and yet God is not the author of evil.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.169, emphasis mine) 

How so?

John Calvin: “If anyone object that this is beyond his comprehension, I confess it. But what wonder if the immense and incomprehensible majesty of God exceed the limits of our intellect? I am so far from undertaking the explanation of this sublime, hidden secret, that I wish what I said at the beginning to be remembered, that those who seek to know more than God has revealed are crazy. Therefore let us be pleased with instructed ignorance rather than with the intemperate and inquisitive intoxication of wanting to know more than God allows.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.123, emphasis mine) 

(1) “beyond comprehension.”
(2) “instructed ignorance.”
(3) “hidden secret.”

John Calvin: “But now, removing from God all proximate causation of the act, I at the same time remove from Him all guilt and leave man alone liable. It is therefore wicked and calumnious to say that I make the fall of man one of the works of God. But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what mans future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.123-124, emphasis mine) 

(4) “I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.”

John Calvin: “It is any wonder that such immense splendour should blunt the acuteness of our mind? Our physical eyes are not enough to sustain a contemplation of the sun. Is our spiritual insight greater than our natural powers, or the majesty of God inferior to the glory of the sun? Is it becoming in us, then, not to be too inquisitive....” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.184-185, emphasis mine)

(5) “too inquisitive.”

Calvinist, Charles Sprugeon: I have endeavoured to give a scriptural reason for the dealings of God with man. He saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. ‘How,’ says some one, ‘do you reconcile these two doctrines?’ My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God’s Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them. If you show me that they are enemies, then I will reconcile them. ‘But,’ says one, ‘there is a great deal of difficulty about them.’ Will you tell me what truth there is that has not difficulty about it? ‘But,’ he says, ‘I do not see it.’ Well, I do not ask you to see it; I ask you to believe it. There are many things in God’s Word that are difficult, and that I cannot see, but they are there, and I believe them. I cannot see how God can be omnipotent and man be free; but it is so, and I believe it. ‘Well,’ says one, ‘I cannot understand it.’ My answer is, I am bound to make it as plain as I can, but if you have not any understanding, I cannot give you any; there I must leave it. But then, again, it is not a matter of understanding; it is a matter of faith.” (Jacob and Esau)

(6) “I cannot see how.”

Calvinist. R.C. Sproul: “But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.” (Chosen By God, p.31)

(7) “I don’t know.”

Calvinist, Phil Johnson: “Mainstream Calvinists have always emphasized that the reprobate are predestined by God’s preterition and by their own fault (i.e., because of their sin). They merit hell. In other words, their damnation is not ‘unconditional.’ The elect, by contrast, are the objects of God’s active choice, and He predestines them to heaven for His own sake, not because of anything in them. They don’t merit heaven, and they don’t unleash God’s grace by some act they perform or some choice they make. They have nothing of which to boast; God’s gracious intervention is the only reason they will be in heaven—not some divinely-foreseen goodness in them. That’s what Calvinists mean when we say election is ‘unconditional.’ So the decree of election and the decree of reprobation are not exact parallels or mirror images of one another. One is activethe other passive. Election is ‘unconditional’ in precisely the sense reprobation is not. The elect don’t get what they deserve; the reprobate do. So the reprobate cannot claim their punishment is ‘unconditional,’ or purely God’s doing; yet the elect must acknowledge that the favor God shows them is not because they met any ‘conditions’ or earned any merit.” (Notes from a Reluctant Calvinist, emphasis mine)

But if everything is predetermined and pre-scripted, and with divine omniscience being at stake, then how could God be “passive” in anything and how could it not be an exact “parallel,” the very parallel that is being denied? Ultimately, Calvinists want it both ways, and that’s what causes them to talk in circles. The Arminian is mocked into silence by suggesting that they fail to understand, and they have misrepresented Calvinism.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “For the consistent Determinist, God only foreknows some future event because He ordained it, and because He planned for it to happen, and then by directly and continuously and completely controlling everything, ensures that what is preplanned is actualized. He knows X will occur because He predetermined for X to occur. So for Calvinists to say that God is so merciful because He selects some from the mass of condemnation- deserving-humanity, intentionally ignores, intentionally neglects, and sweeps under the rug, the reality that if that mass of humanity is sinful and worthy of condemnation, they are only that way because God Himself predetermined for them to be sinful and worthy of condemnation (i.e. He made them that way, He wanted them to be that way, and it was impossible for them to be anything other than what He made them to be).” (SEA)

Notice the following exchange:

​Arminian, Roger Olson: “True. But if they are real Calvinists (and I explain what I mean by that in the book) they believe a doctrine of providence called “divine determinism” (I explain that in the book also) that absolutely rules out any conditionality of either election or reprobation. Besides (as I also explain in the book) IF election to salvation is absolutely unconditional, God COULD elect everyone to salvation. If he doesn’t (but could) he’s a moral monster. The only way around that is to believe that both individual election and reprobation are conditional.” (Editing God: The Arminian Refusal to Let God be Free, emphasis mine)

​Calvinist, James White: “It sounds like this is a summary of his main argument. Let me put it in plain language. IF God is completely free in the matter of salvation, and IF God exercises His freedom in the salvation of those who actually deserve nothing but His just wrath, and IF God’s freedom includes His ability to save or to justly damn, THEN God is a ‘moral monster.’ Miss the leap over the massive chasm of reasoning there? Me too.” (Editing God: The Arminian Refusal to Let God be Free, emphasis mine)

James White mitigates against Olson’s “moral monster” accusation by saying that man is the monster, and while this is true of man’s conscious state, is it true that man is a monster prior to his creation? On what basis would James White “justly damn” someone before they are born? (Note: You cannot say that a pre-born person deserves the wrath of God because they are in Adam by nature, because Ezekiel 18:20 indicates that a person’s own sin is what declares him worthy of judgment, and not necessarily the actions of Adam per se: “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”) That’s the hole in White’s defense, because Calvinism’s “sovereign decree” logically precedes creation itself (i.e. before the foundation of the world), and therefore precedes the actions of man which rightly designates him a “monster.” Calvinists instinctively look toward something uniquely within man in order to make him responsible for his actions, as if by some form of self-determination, but the omni-causality of the alleged “sovereign decree” forbids mans determination of anything. Monergism is something that extends beyond salvation and into all causation whatsoever. Therefore, stripped of this defense, White is left to trumpet Calvinism with nothing more than “God’s freedom” to be the very moral monster that Arminians accuse Calvinists of making Him out to be. Furthermore, it is unbelievable that White has the audacity to talk about a “massive chasm of reasoning” on Olson’s part, when yet White fails to account for his own flawed reasoning, in that according to Determinism, all human “monsters” are monsters by decree (it’s amazing that in a discussion with Calvinists that you have to remind them of what they teach about predestination), with said “monsters” having no independent thoughts of their own, no rogue or unscripted thoughts, ever, from cradle to grave, and in fact, that’s what cuts right through the “1st causes / 2nd causes” defense. To illustrate, if every thought that Hitler ever conceived, was a thought that God precisely scripted for him to think, would you think that he is the monster, or rather that he is the puppet of the monster? So do Calvinists wish to trumpet God’s freedom to be a monster? Queue the Hyper Calvinists....who simply follow the unavoidable path of logic, which logic, that regular Calvinists so strenuously resist.

One Calvinist confesses: “For a long time, I myself wouldn’t concede that God was the author of sin. In the end, however, I (and most of the other Calvinists I find who refrain from saying God is the author of sin) did so because it was simply uncomfortable for me, but that is philosophically dishonest. I think you must conclude that God is the author of sin if you say that God predestines and decrees all things.” (Why I think Calvinism dishonors God, emphasis mine)

Calvinists are very comfortable when talking about the depravity of man, as being “dead rebel sinners who hate God,” but are conversely very uncomfortable when speaking about how the dead rebel sinners got that way in the first place, as it relates to an alleged IMMUTABLE DECREE, in which God [allegedly] had decreed “whatsoever comes to pass.” You can see as clear as day just how uncomfortable Calvinists can get, when having to admit to “instructed ignorance” (as per John Calvin) and “I don’t know” (as per R.C. Sproul) and “it’s a mystery” (like many others, such as Charles Spurgeon). High Calvinists, of course, have no problem being ugly, but mainstream Calvinists struggle with this.

John Calvin cautions: “Let us heed the simplicity of Scripture with more attention and respect, in case our over-ingenious philosophizing leads us, not to heaven, but rather, to the bewildering labyrinths of the depths beneath.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. III, James and Jude, p.331, emphasis mine) 

​John Calvin is not only uncomfortable in explaining how an alleged immutable decree causes the reprobate to be as his is (without it also making God into the author of sin), that he even goes so far as to warn people of the dangers of even considering it too deeply, and compares it to a labyrinth.

John Calvin: “We have no reason to ask what God decreed before the creation of the world in order to know that we have been elected by Him, but we find in ourselves a satisfactory proof of whether He has sanctified us by His Spirit and enlightened us to faith in His Gospel. The Gospel is not only a testimony to us of our adoption, but the Spirit also seals it, and those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14), and he that possesses Christ has eternal life (I John 5:12). We must note this carefully, so that we may not disregard the revelation of God, with which He bids us be satisfied, and plunge into an endless labyrinth with the desire of seeking revelation from His secret counsel, the investigation of which He compels us to abandon. We are, therefore to be satisfied with the faith of the Gospel and the grace of the Spirit by which we have been regenerated. By this means we refute the depravity of those who make the election of God a pretext for every kind of wrong-doing, for Paul connects it with faith and regeneration in such a way that he would not have us measure it by any other standard.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.410, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “For it is not right that man should with impunity pry into things which the Lord has been pleased to conceal within himself, and scan that sublime eternal wisdom which it is his pleasure that we should not apprehend but adore, that therein also his perfections may appear. Those secrets of his will, which he has seen it meet to manifest, are revealed in his word--revealed in so far as he knew to be conducive to our interest and welfare. … But since both piety and common sense dictate that this is not to be understood of every thing, we must look for a distinction, lest under the pretense of modesty and sobriety we be satisfied with a brutish ignorance. This is clearly expressed by Moses in a few words, ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever,’ (Deut. 29:29). We see how he exhorts the people to study the doctrine of the law in accordance with a heavenly decree, because God has been pleased to promulgate it, while he at the same time confines them within these boundaries, for the simple reason that it is not lawful for men to pry into the secret things of God.” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 1, emphasis mine)

Calvin warns that too much investigation into Calvinistic decrees results in an “endless labyrinth” of madness, which God, who calls us to come reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18), simultaneously, allegedly compels us to “abandon” investigation into His secret will, in order to protect our spiritual sanity. Calvin bids us, “be satisfied.” 

Spurgeon concludes: “Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Think not on election but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus—Jesus first, midst, and without end.” (Election, emphasis mine)

So dont get LOST in the labyrinth of Calvinism, but think like an Arminian, and just trust in Jesus.

Question:  Why do Calvinists so often seem to talk in circles? Why do Calvinists so often seem to appeal to “mystery”?